High as the Waters Rise: A Novel by Anja Kampmann, translated by Anne Posten
This National Book Award finalist is a dazzling, heart-rending story of an oil rig worker whose closest friend goes missing, plunging him into isolation and forcing him to confront his past.
On Sale September 15, 2020 • ISBN 9781948226523
"So beautifully written, Anja Kampmann's novel is one of those very rare things: a debut of a literary master . . . High as the Waters Rise is our time's answer to the timeless Gilgamesh myth: a friend is lost, and a journey begins, teaching us with such passion about our world, its terrors, its injustices, its moments of piercing tenderness . . . I am deeply grateful to Anja Kampmann for the gift to us that is this novel, and to her translator, Anne Posten, for the crisp and precise version in English. This is the book to live with." ―Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa
One night aboard an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic, Waclaw returns to his cabin to find that his bunkmate and companion, Mátyás, has gone missing. A search of the rig confirms his fear that Mátyás has fallen into the sea.
Grief-stricken, he embarks on an epic emotional and physical journey that takes him to Morocco, to Budapest and Mátyás’s hometown in Hungary, to Malta, Italy, and finally to the mining town of his childhood in Germany. Waclaw’s encounters along the way with other lost and yearning souls – Mátyás’s angry, grieving half-sister; lonely rig workers on shore leave; a truck driver who watches the world change from his driver’s seat – bring us closer to his origins while also revealing the problems of a globalized economy dependent on waning natural resources. High as the Waters Rise is a stirring exploration of male intimacy, the nature of memory and grief, and the cost of freedom – the story of a man who stands at the margins of a society from which he has profited little, though its functioning depends on his labor.
German poet Anja Kampmann was born in Hamburg and resides in Leipzig. High as the Waters Rise is her first novel, for which she received the Mara Cassens Prize for best German debut novel and the Lessing Promotion Prize. She was also awarded the Bergen-Enkheim Prize and was nominated for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize and the German Book Prize.
Anne Posten translates prose, poetry, and drama from the German. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, and her translations of authors such as Peter Bichsel, Carl Seelig, Thomas Brasch, Tankred Dorst, Anna Katharina Hahn, and Paul Scheerbart have appeared with New Directions, Christine Burgin/The University of Chicago Press, Music & Literature, n+1, VICE, The Buenos Aires Review, FIELD, Stonecutter, and Hanging Loose, among other publications. She is based in Berlin.
"Prose with the brightness of poetry, in a splendidly lucid translation." ―Jennifer Croft, author of Homesick and co-winner with Olga Tokarczuk of the International Booker Prize for Flights
"The beautiful English-language debut from German poet Kampmann tells the story of a middle-aged oil rig worker’s emotional crisis after the death of his friend . . . As Waclaw digs up memories of his drilling throughout the world―in Morocco, Mexico, and Brazil―he ruminates on generations of workers who must eke out a living by exploiting the earth and its resources. Kampmann captures the visceral uneasiness that arises from second guessing one’s past." ––Publishers Weekly
"In Anja Kampmann's debut novel High as the Waters Rise, exquisitely translated by Anne Posten, memory moves in and out of the present like the tides....we are treated to the most vivid particulars, the glory of specifics, the full human reality of a character whose attempt to wander away from deadening grief only reminds him time and time again of all the many ways he has and does and can still feel alive." ―Ilana Masad, author of All My Mother's Lovers